Sunday, 1 December 2013

Nuffield in New Zealand Day 5 - A Story of Two Brothers

After a hearty breakfast we loaded up and headed from Fielding through Palmerston North before driving nearly 2 hours South towards Masterton.  Our next host provided a great lunch; Nathan and Kate Williams.  The farm is about 200 Ha with some extra seeding done on contract with the Cross Slot drill.  In total the drill plants around 400Ha/year.  The farm grows spring barley and spring peas, which take about 100 days to grow through the spring and summer.  These fields are then planted with Italian Rye Grass, which carry in the region of 7,000 lambs from 30Kg liveweight to their prime weight of about 42Kg.  The lambs achieve this liveweight gain in around 6 weeks
Red clover and Italian Rye grass seed is also grown as seed crops and sold to local markets, or in the case of the IRG some is replanted on the farm reducing the seed cost of winter animal feed considerably.  Nathan's father Jim was telling us about the traditional method of crop establishment which was full inversion with the plough and then power harrowing several times.  The Cross slot drill has been used to establish all of the crops on the farm since 1998, increasing organic matter in the paddocks and increasing crop yield.  Fertiliser is always applied at planning to spring crops with the seed, which is traditional with the farmers here in New Zealand.
Jim told us that the farm is actually more intensively managed now using no-till as more management time is spent looking at the crops rather than sitting on a tractor seat.  The speedy turn around between crops also adds to the yield of the winter grass crops, allowing increased carrying capacity of lambs on the farm, increasing the return.  Is this potentially more management time to get to 20T/Ha of wheat?  Nathan has just started looking at winter wheat again, this is Einstein grown on river silt land, looking very well.  The crop is planted at 88Kg/Ha, receives three fungicides, 2 plant growth regulators and about 400Kg of urea.  Septoria and rusts are the main diseases so a fairly similar program to us in the UK.
After a short drive through even more stunning countryside we met up with Nathan’s brother Mick and his wife Karen who were the 2013 Wellington Ballance Farm Environment Award winners.  Mick and Karen farm in the crook of the Ruamahanga river in Central Wairarapa.  The farm is predominantly spring planted with arable crops; barley and peas, with redclover, and Italian ryegrass grown for seed.  Here are some peas that have been drilled with the Cross Slot drill straight into sprayed off IRG.

Short term IRG leys are planted after peas and barley in the autumn and used to fatten lambs on through the winter period.  The farm carries in the region of 6,000 lambs through the winter grazing on the IRG.  Soil temperatures rarely get below 5 degrees in this area so the grass grows all winter; which is a great advantage. Mick uses a 3m Cross Slot drill for the crop establishment except for 4 Ha of onions grown for seed.  Both of the farms we visited today were fantastically run, with great passion for doing the best job possible whilst being innovative and positive.

We left Mick and Karen’s and headed on to visit Roger and Barbara Barton, near Greytown.  Roger is a 1995 Nuffield Scholar and Barbara is the secretary of New Zealand Nuffield.  We had great company for the evening and a fantastically well cooked homely meal for supper (thanks to bambi)and a couple of Tui’s.  Just the ticket!

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